War vets cry foul as govt repossesses idle land

HARARE - The War Veterans’ ministry has bemoaned the repossession of idle land parcelled out to the ex-freedom fighters under the violent land reform programme. 

In a statement, the Tshinga Dube-led ministry called on all ex-combatants who had lost land under the repossession exercise to approach his ministry’s provincial offices to get their names and details documented.  

This comes after Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora said that the Surveyor-General’s Department was conducting a survey to evaluate all the farms government acquired under the land reform programme.

“We are going to repossess and then reallocate vacant plots, while underutilised land, especially under the A2 model, will be downsized,” he said.

“Government will not take away land from someone on the ground, but will re-plan and downsize where necessary in order to increase land use. It’s the same process as downsizing, except that this one targets those who are not using land properly or optimally because their farm is too big for them,” he said.

“It should be clear that we don’t want to downsize the properties of productive farmers,” he added.

Mombeshora said if someone has above maximum farm size but is utilising that property optimally, “then we’d rather support that farmer to increase production”.

The War Veterans ministry said the affected ex-freedom fighters must provide “their names, war veterans number, national identification number, province and district, date settled, name of farm, subdivision and size copy of offer letter, any evidence of threat to withdraw and court papers if there is any court action underway”.

The land reform exercise saw around 5 000 white commercial farmers being violently evicted from their land by President Robert Mugabe’s supporters and war veterans over the past 17 years while more than a dozen farmers have been killed.

The new occupants, mainly war vets, lack farming skills and can barely make ends meet.

Their agricultural output is a fraction of the level seen before 2000, when Mugabe — who argued the move sought to right colonial wrongs — grabbed land from experienced white farmers.

The new occupants are also being hammered by a stagnating economy that has seen banks reluctant to lend undermining their businesses.

The War Vets ministry said: “Due to the above circumstances, the . . . ministry has pleaded with His Excellency to intervene at the highest level to stop the ministry of Lands or any other authorities in these dastardly activities from countenancing or approving such dispossessions and displacements.”

Comments (3)

It is unfortunate that the re-allocation of land continues from national level while local authorities and technical staff (e.g. extension staff) closest to these farmers are not involved. That Minister Dube reportedly appealed to the President. The conflict over repossessions shows the limits of a centralised land administration system and the need for an audit. Addressing the plight of affected War Veterans should be systematically done and for everyone not just War Veterans alongside an overall improvement of the land admin system to leverage production and productivity. Delaying a land audit that in my view would inform decentralized land admin is a disservice to the country. Leaving the relevant Ministry to deal with this issue in the absence of other stakeholders is not sustainable.

Kudzai Chatiza - 9 March 2017

THat model of argriculture you are "attempting" to do does not work. Keep the farms BIG and get People who can use land to do it and not using LAND to BUY People.

selele - 9 March 2017

As long as land is used as a political, disciplinary or bait tool agriculture will never rise to its pre-1996 levels. It doesn't matter how many of these stupid and useless land "audits" are done.

Sagitarr - 9 March 2017

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